Los Angeles Dodgers: 4 Reasons Why Joe Blanton Is a Major Upgrade for Dodgers
Many Los Angeles Dodgers fans—myself included—stewed when the team failed to acquire a starting pitcher prior to Tuesday’s MLB non-waiver trade deadline. Los Angeles addressed that concern today when they Joe Blanton of Waivers" target="_blank">claimed Joe Blanton off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies and agreed to a trade to acquire the right-hander.
Blanton was not one of the many pitchers mentioned in trade rumors surrounding the Dodgers over the past several weeks. But there are several reasons why he will help Los Angeles make a run at the NL West title and be a legitimate contender for the World Series.
Preserves Minor League System
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been steadfast in their desire to retain the team’s top minor league prospects, and the acquisition of Joe Blanton is consistent with that plan. Of the three trades that the Dodgers made prior to the non-waiver deadline, none of them included top-pitching prospects Zach Lee, Allen Webster or Chris Reed.
While most people assumed that Ryan Dempster would be wearing a Dodgers uniform by now, their discussions with the Cubs apparently stalled when, according to baseball insider Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Los Angeles refused to part with one of the aforementioned minor leaguers.
The new ownership preferred to take on hefty salaries in trades in lieu of gutting the minor league system. Adding Blanton—and the prorated portion of his $8 million salary which works out to about $2.5 million for the rest of 2012—for a minor league player to be named later was absolutely a gamble worth taking.
No Long-Term Commitment
The Dodgers did not jeopardize their long-term plans by acquiring Joe Blanton since the 31-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. Given some of the other potential pitching free agents that could be available this winter, it’s unlikely that Blanton would return to Los Angeles in 2013.
The trade improves Los Angeles’ chances of competing for the NL West title this year while freeing them to pursue better potential free agents in the offseason, players like James Shields (Tampa Bay Rays), Dempster (Texas Rangers) or Kyle Lohse (St. Louis Cardinals) to name a few.
Provides Insurance Against Ted Lilly's Rehab
The Dodgers have received a lot of help this season from pitchers who were expected to spend most of 2012 in the minor leagues. Los Angeles has been waiting for LHP Ted Lilly to return from a shoulder ailment that has kept him on the 60-day disabled list since late May.
Lilly has given up seven runs over two starts during his rehab assignment for Los Angeles’ Class A affiliate, and he was scratched from tonight’s scheduled start with soreness in that same shoulder.
With this most recent setback, Lilly's return to the Dodgers rotation is not imminent, and Blanton provides some veteran insurance in case Lilly is unable to return anytime soon.
With RHP Nathan Eovaldi now with the Miami Marlins as part of the deal that brought Hanley Ramirez to Los Angeles, Blanton’s presence takes some pressure off of rookie Stephen Fife, who has filled in admirably during his three starts this season.
Adds Veteran Right-Handed Pitcher to the Rotation
Even if Ted Lilly eventually returns to the Dodgers rotation in the near future, adding the right-handed Blanton provides a boost to a staff that is heavy on left-handed pitchers and short on postseason experience.
Along with Lilly, staff ace Clayton Kershaw and 2012 surprise All-Star Chris Capuano are also lefties. Blanton would add balance to the rotation by providing a third right-handed option along with Chad Billingsley and Aaron Harang.
Though Blanton’s 8-9 record and 4.59 ERA don’t look very impressive, he does have a very respectable 1.19 WHIP for the year, and he’s coming off a July that was by far his best month this season, posting a 3.82 ERA with a .241 BAA and a 33:4 K/BB ratio in 35 innings pitched.
Those numbers are consistent with his splits over the past three years (2009-2011) which show that Blanton is a much better pitcher after the All-Star break (12-5 record with a 3.51 ERA, .266 BAA and 166 strikeouts in 194.2 innings) than before (10-11 record, 5.33 ERA, .293 BAA and 166 strikeouts in 217.2 innings).
Blanton has also made 10 postseason appearances since 2006—six of them starts—including being a member of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies team. The trio of Lilly, Capuano and Harang have exactly two postseason starts between them, both of which belong to Lilly (2003 with the Oakland A's and 2007 with the Chicago Cubs).
With that type of track record, along with moving to the pitcher-friendly confines of Dodgers Stadium, it looks as if Blanton gives the Dodgers a much-needed upgrade for the stretch run.
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